If anything, you can not fault Meshuggah for being
unrelenting. Rather than take the easy way out and make a
more radio-friendly album as a follow up to Chaosphere,
they've seemed to push themselves even further. With a short
bit of free advertising on the popular Osbourne's show on
MTV and a stint on the 2002 Ozzfest tour, one might think
the band has softened, even if just a little. You would be
Meshuggah's musical focus has always been a hard pill
to swallow. The guitars, bass and drums never seem to be on
the same timing pattern, but once you listen hard enough,
you hear the overall plan - to make a song that fits together
like a complex puzzle over the length of the track. While
everything almost feels jagged and that it doesn't work together,
once you hear it from beginning to end, you get the grander
scheme that everything does work. Each part of the performance
is well played. Jens Kidman's vocals are brutally acidic and
leaves the listener feeling like their ears just took a beating.
The lyrics are adeptly written and are refreshing in that
they don't fall into the standard metal clichés. Haake's drumming
is deliberate and well performed, as are the extremely tight
guitars and bass.
Fans of Meshuggah will immediately notice how much
slower and methodic this album is. There is far less of the
more mainstream metal feel to it as every track feels like
you're being assaulted upon by the band. There is a brutal
aggression in Nothing that most acts just can't seem
to grasp. Instead of flooding the album with high speed cheese,
they present songs with powerful chords that hint at a groove,
but at the same time show a deep intricacy.
Stengah makes an opening statement that should leave
you in no doubt of the album's focus. It's brutal and spasmodic.
The chords rip into the listener and those who survive the
first assault can move on to the rest of the album. Rational
Gaze actually flirts with a groove and includes some excellent
guitar work that shows talent and range. Perpetual Black
Second is another of those tracks that just beats you
over the head with its pulsing beat and guitar, yet retains
a level of groove to break it up. Nebulous is ploddingly
oppresive in it's sheer in-your-face aggression.
The only real complaint I have about Nothing is that
it sometimes seems to be a little too much. It feels like
the band is almost always on the verge of breaking, and maybe
the album would have been a little better served with at least
some shifts away from the high-end intensity.
Nothing is not for everyone. It's the kind of album
that grows on you, but if you find yourself unable to grasp
Meshuggah's music writing concept, you'll probably
ignorantly write this off as a mindless grindfest. And that'll
be your loss. Because Nothing is a solid progression
from their more mainstream roots to a conceptualized songwriting
that involves not only intelligent song writing but lyrics
as well. It is a hard pill to swallow, but if you get it down,
you'll be glad you did.